2015-04-15 / Features

Flyers Are Cleared For Take-Off

BY LENA VARIS TAGLIAVIA


In their second year under Vlavianos, the Flyers have achieved something they have never achieved before in the PSAL Boys Varsity “A” division, they posted an 8-8 record and made it into the second round of the PSAL playoffs. In their second year under Vlavianos, the Flyers have achieved something they have never achieved before in the PSAL Boys Varsity “A” division, they posted an 8-8 record and made it into the second round of the PSAL playoffs. It’s been a while since the Aviation High School Boys Varsity Team has seen the playoffs in the PSAL A division – never, to be exact. However things have changed. Being “cleared for take-off,” the Aviation Flyers have begun the process of rebuilding its Boys Varsity Basketball program with the hiring of new Head Basketball Coach Nicholas Vlavianos. Coach Vlavianos coached the Tom Pecora Basketball Camp at Hofstra University in 2003 and the Greek Orthodox Youth Association (GOYA) Boys Basketball team of St. Demetrios, Astoria from 2002 to 2007. He led his boys’ basketball team to the New York Metro Area Championship in ‘05-’06, posting a 13-2 record for the season.

In their second year under Vlavianos, the Flyers have achieved something they have never achieved before in the PSAL Boys Varsity “A” division, they posted an 8-8 record and made it into the second round of the PSAL playoffs. Before Vlavianos took over the team, they were struggling to stay out of the basement of the Queens “A” West division. As soon as “Coach V,” as he is known, took over the program, he put his stamp on the program right away. “Because I’m a physical education teacher at Aviation, I knew the kids on the team and I knew who I wanted and who I thought would no longer fit in my system both on and off the court, so I cleaned house.” And Coach V did exactly that. Once the roster was finalized the team consisted of players from all grades, from two freshmen to seniors. “I take and play the best players regardless of what grade they are in,” Coach V said.

Under his watch in the first season, the Flyers went 4-10 but that was a positive for Coach V. “We were competitive. We never folded and kept chipping away and ultimately we laid down a foundation to build on,” he said. “The one thing I quickly realized was, prior to me taking over the program, we were looked at as the doormats of the league, an easy win. That changed quickly. “Look, all programs under a new coach have to be given a couple of years to develop; my time frame was three years to get this thing turned around.” Coach V’s three-year plan came to fruition a year earlier than expected. This year the Flyers were facing a scenario of achieving a final five-game win or be eliminated. Vlavianos credits his players for the success. “This bunch of kids had their backs to the wall and came up big at the end of the season. Once we got a taste of what could be, my boys finally bought into the team concept and our system, we got on a roll.” Facing elimination, they went on to win the last five regular season games and won seven of the last eight games to make the PSAL A division playoffs for the first time in school history.

Many teams would have been content with just making the playoffs, but not the Flyers. “We went into the East Harlem Pride playoff game on a mission. We were not content on just making the playoffs, we were hungry and wanted more and we got it. I am extremely proud of these guys,” said the coach. The Flyers won their first ever A division playoff game 42-41 to move on. Unfortunately for the Flyers the run ended in the next round, capping off a season that looks like the start of something special at Aviation High School. “I am happy but not content. We have the ability to be and do something special and this was just the first step. We can’t settle and be happy with what we did, we need to be hungrier and work harder to achieve our ultimate goal. As a coach though, I am building a program for years to come, not just a ‘one and done,’ so yeah, we still have a lot of work to do and we face many challenges ahead of us. Ones that I know we will meet head on and be successful in doing so,” Coach V shared.

He continued, “Look, we have something here that many schools cannot say they have. We have been an A-rated school since 2006, our administration, teachers and staff are caring and dedicated to giving our students the best education, school safety is a priority, our boys’ Varsity Soccer team are City Champs and now the Basketball team is making some noise.”

Nothing is more evident in the growing success of the Flyers Basketball program than when one of their own, last year’s captain, Michael Maldonado, made the John Jay College Men’s Basketball team, which is a Division 3 NCAA School.

“I am hoping there will be more to follow. Why not?” Coach V said. “Any player in the city would benefit from playing with us. We have what I call the perfect storm brewing for student athletes wanting to go on to playing college basketball, academics and athletics, exactly what colleges are looking for. Like they said in the movie, Field of Dreams, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ We are building so the student/athletes can now come to Aviation.” Looks like Coach Vlavianos has the Flyers flying right once again. To see the Flyers progress and schedule, visit the PSAL website at www.psal.org or visit the school website at www.aviationhs.net for information on the school.

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